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Sony 4K Handycam FDR-AXP33 review – hands on

Sony 4K Handycams just got a whole lot more affordable, with the new AXP33 falling below $1,000

Sony’s sales pitch for the FDR-AXP33 4K handycam, revealed during the company’s CES 2015 press conference, is “4K for less than $1k”. It’s a massive reduction in price compared to last year’s £1,600 FDR-AX100E, which Sony hopes will give more people than ever the ability to shoot high quality 4K footage.

The new model is 30% smaller and 20% lighter than its predecessor, despite matching it in terms of video resolution. It shoots up to 100Mbit video in the XAVC S format, which should let users store more video before having to upload to a PC or swap memory cards, but not impact image quality. That’s actually an improvement over the AX100, which could only shoot 50Mbit video at launch. XAVC S is widely supported by the most popular high-end video editors too, as it uses an MP4 container and H.264 video along with 2-channel PCM audio.

The FDR-AXP33 uses a 1/2.3in backside illuminated (BSI) Exmor R CMOS sensor, paired with a BIONZ X image processor capable of shooting 3,840×2,160 resolution 4K footage at either 24 or 25 frames per second or 1080p video at 50fps, as well as 20.6-megapixel stills. It’s not clear if this is a brand new sensor, or the same one found in the AX100, but it should be capable of some high quality results regardless.

As the first 4K handycam to include Sony’s improved Balanced Optical SteadyShot (BOSS) image stabilisation, video files should be smmoth and blur-free, even when filming handheld or making quick panning shots. We weren’t able to shoot any footage with the camera on Sony’s CES booth, so we’ll withhold judgment regarding SteadyShot’s abilities and video quality as a whole until we get a review unit into the office.

Despite the size and price reduction, Sony hasn’t cut down on professional features aimed at videographers. A manual ring on the lens can be assigned to aperture and focus as well as zoom, while an ISO-compatible shoe on the top of the camera lets you add a more capable microphone or other accessories. All the other usual buttons are present and correct, as is a flip-out electronic viewfinder, meaning returning handycam users and novices alike will feel right at home.

There’s no denying Sony has done a great job squeezing the most important features of its high-end 4K Handycam into a more affordable body, without making too many compromises. It might not feel quite as premium as its bigger brother, but we’re still excited to see what results we can get from the AXP33.

The FDR-AXP33 is already available to pre-order directly from Sony, but will be going on sale across Europe in February. We’re still waiting for an official UK price, but if US customers will be able to pick one up for $1,000, we’re hoping it should arrive for around £750 after tax and VAT. Either way, we’ll be sure to give it a full review as soon as we can get hold of one.

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